Carlton Lake, 74, Educator

Posted: January 11, 1998

Carlton Jones Lake, 74, formerly of Center City, an educator, music director and founder of two boys' choirs, died of pneumonia Tuesday at Pennsylvania Hospital. He had lived in the community of Loveladies on Long Beach Island since his retirement in 1985.

Mr. Lake was the founder of the All-Philadelphia Boys Choir and the Academy Boys Choir and also was the founding director of the Philadelphia School of Performing Arts.

A champion of choral music, Mr. Lake conducted numerous choruses and took his boys' choirs on tours to England, Wales, Austria, Holland, Jamaica, Denmark and Germany, and to musical festivals throughout the United States.

``He was the best there is and ever was,'' said Bill Leach, who sang for Mr. Lake in the 1960s. ``He taught us how to sing and gave us the motivation and incentive.''

On the podium, he was no wild maestro with flailing arms. He directed with a calm efficiency and a minimum of movement.

``When he conducted the choir, your eyes didn't move off him, no matter who was in the audience,'' Leach said. ``That's the kind of control he had.''

He wasn't always subtle. ``He would let us know when we were stinking up the place by grabbing his nose,'' said Leach, who is assembling a chorus of former choir singers to perform at Mr. Lake's memorial service on Jan. 30.

``He was a very charismatic character,'' said Dan Rothermel, musical director of the Savoy Opera Company, music teacher in Philadelphia schools, and a longtime friend. ``He had a gift for friendship, a wonderful manner in dealing with people, and tremendous skills in bringing out the best in young people.

``Kids who were in trouble in school would behave like angels for him.''

Born of Welsh parents in the Wilkes-Barre area community of Kingston, Mr. Lake had music in his blood. He took part in Welsh musical competitions, called eisteddfodau, as a boy, winning first place in the children's solo competition at the National Eisteddfod in Wilkes-Barre in 1933.

After graduating from Kingston High School, he earned degrees in music education from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and received a doctorate in music from the University of the Arts.

The subject of his dissertation was ``The Music and Music Festivals of the Welsh.''

He began teaching in Eddystone in 1948, then was a teacher and supervisor of vocal music in the Philadelphia School District from 1959 to 1967. From 1967 to 1977, he was principal at Comegys, Mayfair and Farrell Junior High Schools.

From 1977 to 1985, he was the founding director of the Philadelphia Performing Arts School, a private high school that shared space with the College of Performing Arts for a time. It later moved to West Philadelphia and went out of business several years after Mr. Lake retired.

In 1988, he conducted the 57th Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu (hymn sing) in Baltimore, the first American-born musician to do so.

He was a sergeant in the Army Military Police during World War II.

Mr. Lake, who never married, lived with two cats whose names reflected his lifelong interests. One was Myfanwy, a feminine Welsh name; the other was Gianni Schichi, named for a character in one of his beloved Puccini operas.

Mr. Lake is survived by four nephews, Charles and William Edwards, and John and Donald Lake.

A memorial service will begin at 1 p.m. Jan. 30 at St. James the Less Church, 32d Street and Hunting Park Avenue. Burial will be private.

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